Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 5) –The Inquest Begins






The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 5) –The Inquest Begins

 News travels fast in the country and the tragic circumstance around the Towitta murder spread like wildfire through South Australia. Mounted Constable Mowbray secured the crime scene and started documenting the evidence, only to have Matthes and Johanne return home at 1pm that day from Flaxman’s Valley. Heinrich, one of the other brothers also made his way home from where he was working as soon as heard what had happened.

 Dr Steel had arrived from Angaston and had dutifully recorded the cause of death, assisted by Mounted Constable Mowbray and Police Constable Rumble. Matthes was soon approached to identify his daughter’s body, and did so with little outward emotion.
 Soon the Coroner arrived, Mr William Mulligan who almost immediately set in motion an inquest into the event gathering known facts and assessing the situation.
 
 The night, as neighbours gathered to console the grieving Schippans, two other neighbours prepared Bertha’s body for burial – It was a hot summer, and unlike today there were not electric refrigerated morgues, so a quick turnaround time to burial was considered essential.

Mary Schippan
 On Friday the 3rd of January 1902, families gathered at the Schippan family home and sang hymns as they mourned over the body of Bertha. After the short service, the families of mourners followed the body of Bertha to the Sedan Cemetery where she was laid to rest.

 On the same day a number of Police Troopers, Detectives, and Aboriginal Tracker and a Sergeant descended on lonely Towitta, bringing the investigate force to 15 men. Detecitve Priest ran the investigation, and set up office in the family homes kitchen, meanwhile the Schippans began to live their lives in the shed the boys shared, using another outbuilding for their kitchen and food preparation.
 Soon the media arrived in the town, and began enquiring of the Schippans, who answered every question thrown at them, and allowed numerous photographs to be taken. The Media also asked questions of every single person they encountered in the town of Sedan, looking for that one important scoop. In fact, as the inquest really took hold, and the publics greed for news about the Schippan story took centre stage, three people had to be added to the Angaston telegram exchange to get the news back to the newspapers.

  Soon the real inquest into the matter begun, and the Adelaide City Coroner, Dr William Smith came to Towitta as a witness, this was because he had been asked, as a Doctor to assist in the identification of blood stains on the girls clothes. Two Solicitors arrived, MR J Sinclair from Adelaide, acting for the Police, and MR A Foster of Kapunda acting on behalf of the Schippans.
 A jury soon arrived consisting of 8 men. The entire consort of people, and the Schippans all went into one of the outbuildings of which would become the main place for the inquest to be held. Just outside of the building a number of photographers and journalist’s waited for information, and behind them, in the field, were families, some with picnic baskets, waiting for sort of information they could get about the gruesome goings on at the Schippan House

NEXT WEEK: The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 6) –What the Inquest Found